When Cultures Collide in Master Cheng at Devour 9.5 Food & Film Fest

Devour Food & Film Festival
Location: Al Whittle Theatre
450 Main St
Wolfville, Nova Scotia

Date: Fri, Oct 20, 2020
Time: 8:00 am – 10:00 pm

Buy In-person tickets or online tickets here

Price: $10.00

Master Cheung (warmly played by Pak Hon Chu), is a stranger in a strange land. In this film’s case, it’s Finland. Together with his son, Niu Niu (Lucas Hsuan), they travelled here in search of Fongtron, and Sirkka’s (Anna-Maija Tuokko) diner is the only place where he can ask for his whereabouts.

Nobody in the tiny hamlet knows who this person is, and why this Chinese man is adamant on finding him. Part of it is due to how he pronounces his syllables, and it doesn’t make for any comic moments. Chu plays his character up somewhat like Jackie Chan, naïve and strong, but without the fighting prowess and necessity to yuk it up. I feel this direction is intentional to show the parts of his life that he’s closed off.

When a Chinese tour bus happens this way and the snobbish students crave a taste of home, Cheung volunteers to cook up a meal at Sirkka’s diner. She’s been very hospitable to the foreigners because they have nowhere to go, and this man knows he has to return her kindness.

Soon, the village discovers this stranger was once a master chef in Hong Kong. Even the local school gets involved, and Sirkka’s business is booming! She’s happy. Cheung’s desire to find Fongtron doesn’t drive the film. Instead, it’s in finding a new place to belong. This movie is more about how to make peace with yourself, especially after tragedy, and it excels by simply saying home is where the heart is.

Not everyone knows what Cheung, Nin Nin and Sirkka are going through. They all have something holding them back. Sirkka sees these two are escaping something, and no one knows what it is. Curiously, not everyone can see she’s suffering too.

Although the plot is very predictable, I enjoyed seeing this drama about two lonely people connecting. The relationships developed are not rushed, hence the run time of this movie, and that’s okay because I wouldn’t want too short of a film. Without it, I would not be as sympathetic to Nin’s desire to break free from his father’s overprotective ways and be a kid.

The meal presentations are secondary and reveal how the right food can soothe the heart. In this film’s case, I particularly enjoyed the lesson on where the soul of Chinese cooking comes from. It’s not just with how meals are prepared. Instead, the harmony on how food affects the individual is just as involved. There’s a reason why you see most people insist on drinking hot water over cold tap water. Plus, the motley crew of regulars at Sirkka’s diner have medical issues, and it’s amusing to see how Cheung’s soups have helped cure them!

This film implies the staple of Finnish food lays with potatoes and sausages. I’m sure there’s more, but it left me interested enough to consider reindeer soup with snow fungus. Maybe my nose won’t get so bright after sneezing now.

4 Blokes out of 5

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